Promoter Don King, wanting to avoid purse bids and being labeled the scapegoat in the stalled negotiations for an Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson heavyweight championship fight, said last week that he was willing to give Holyfield, the champion, a $5 million edge in the division of purses.
King estimated that would give Holyfield $25 million and Tyson $20 million from the bout.
"I'm willing to sit down today with his managers, Dan Duva and Shelly Finkel, with or without Holyfield present, to get this
thing settled," King said from his New York office.
"Why are we quibbling over the biggest fight in boxing history? Let Holyfield and Tyson decide how they're going to pay their respective promoters. Let Holyfield have the extra money so Duva and Finkel don't stuff it in their pockets."
King speaks for Tyson, who lost his title to James "Buster" Douglas in February 1990, then had to sit on the sidelines when Holyfield made his first championship defense against George Foreman April 19. That surprisingly tough, 12-round fight attracted a record pay-per-view audience of 1.4 million to 1.5 million homes, and gross revenues are projected to reach at least $55 million.
"Let both parties go to the bargaining table without any encumbrances," King said. "Duva says he is not tied to TVKO [a subsidiary of Time Warner Sports that carried the Foreman-Holyfield bout] or HBO. And I'm not asking to carry the fight on my own network, Kingvision. We're better served by acting as independent operators like [promoter] Bob Arum."
It is in King's best interest to get the Tyson-Holyfield fight signed before June 1. Afterward, boxing's sanctioning bodies
would open the title match to sealed purse bids, guaranteeing a meeting by Oct. 25, and, Holyfield then would be guaranteed 75 percent of the total purses.
But King apparently is not prepared to take less than 50 percent of the promotion -- which includes all revenue beyond the fighters' guarantees -- insisting that it is Tyson, not Holyfield, who is the main box-office attraction.
"Holyfield can't attract flies in a garbage dump," King said. "Without Foreman, their fight would have bombed. Ask Caesars Palace. Their dealings with Holyfield have been disastrous. It was only by Tyson losing to Douglas that Holyfield was able to make $35 million in purses by fighting Douglas and Foreman.
"The bitter truth is that Holyfield doesn't want to fight Tyson and is using all these smoke screens to disguise that fact."
Kathy Duva, wife of Dan Duva and spokeswoman for their boxing promotional business, Main Events, said last week that they were willing to begin bargaining with King, but that talks have been pushed back because of the continuing arbitration resulting from the World Boxing Council's effort to strip Holyfield of his title.
King is aligned closely with WBC president Jose Sulaiman, who tried to pressure Holyfield into making his first title defense against Tyson. Another hearing in the dispute was scheduled yesterday in New Jersey. The dispute is not expected to be settled until June.
Kathy Duva said the only benefit of settling with King before June 1 would be if the WBC agreed to end the arbitration and recognized Holyfield as undisputed champion.
King denied that he would like to put off the Holyfield bout until Tyson's contract with promoter Bill Cayton -- who is getting 20 percent of Tyson's fight purses -- expires in February.
"I'm not going to jeopardize making $8 million to keep Cayton from getting $2 million," King said. "Let's cut all the bull and get to the bargaining table."
But Kathy Duva said that King, in seeking an equal share of the gross receipts, is overlooking that "King doesn't have the champion; we do. King is used to dealing from strength, controlling both sides, but it's difficult for him to accept the fact he's not in charge anymore."
Holyfield put it more succinctly: "We'll go by the same rules when Tyson was champion. It's got to be the same split, two-thirds for me, one-third for Tyson. I paid my dues; now let Tyson pay his."
King said he has signed agreements with Duva and Finkel, promising them each several million dollars as part of Tyson's future fight purses if he beats Holyfield.
"That's ancient history," Kathy Duva said. "That offer was made almost a year ago, when we were deciding whether Evander would fight Tyson or Foreman.
"It's true Dan [Duva] and Shelly [Finkel] would have made out better from King's deal, but Evander got a much better offer from Arum to fight Foreman. It would have been corrupt for us to benefit by Evander losing to Tyson. We made the best deal possible for our fighter."
Dan Duva said: "Evander's fight with Foreman brought a breath of fresh air to professional boxing. Now King is trying to pollute the environment again."